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Program Design, Development, and Quality

Vive La Digital Revolution


One thing I have learned throughout my life is that we remember our defining moments.

Well, two things happened in 1984 that changed my life forever (I know….I’m getting up there!). Anyway, the first was my family taking a trip to see Walt Disney World’s E.P.C.O.T. and the other was our first computer purchase, the Apple IIc. No longer were the visions of Star Wars, Buck Rogers, and Battlestar Galactica mere fantasy. They were architectural maps for the future of mankind.

These two events were my entry into a revolution that was just starting to build up steam in the 1980’s and is in full force today. Bringing with it the same changes that the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions brought to the world, this Digital Revolution is different in that it is taking place at warp speed. As an immigrant into this world and as an educator/trainer, I believe it is my responsibility and task to embrace this revolution and help others understand it.

Why is this Digital Revolution important?

In order to answer this question, I challenge you to Google and read about Moore’s Law. While Moore’s Law deals with transistors and integrated circuits, it is strongly linked to the capabilities of technology today. Basically, our technological capability is doubling every 18 months to 2 years.

Don’t believe me! Let’s go back to 1984. Computers were Commodore 64 or the new Apple Macintosh, music was played on cassette tapes as CDs were just being introduced, and cellular technology was just being implemented as a 1G network. Fastforward to today and you find a different scenario. Imagine what is going to happen 25 years from now!

Those of us who have lived through these changes are digital immigrants. We do our best to understand and implement technology. However, the youth we work with are digital natives. These digital natives live in a generation where information is not researched but “Googled,” phones are smart and mobile not rotary, typewriters are stage props, and anyone can have a virtual assistant named Siri. Yet just 10 years ago, the world did not know about iPhones, iPads, YouTube, Twitter, and definitely not 3D Printing. For them, this technology is second nature and an integrated part of their world. As these youth are growing up to be the next wave of participants in the work force that we provide training to, it is critical to understand the impact of this digital world.

UCLA Professor Christine Borgman shared at the 2009 Educause Conference some key points on the education of these digital natives.

She shared that “the classrooms into which these students are herded are unchanged, for the most part, from those of their parents or even their grandparents. When they take their seat in a row of other seats, students in effect step back in time, out of their connected, real-time relationship with the Web, with friends, with information.” She cautioned all educators to recognize this and encouraged us to develop learning offerings that are appropriate for digital natives (Cox, 2008). This is great advice for those of us who have the freedom of the out-of-school-time environment.

The biggest question is not why should we, but how do we do what Professor Borgman is suggesting. In our field, this task is easier than you may think. Many out-of-school-time programs have the freedom to create disguised learning opportunities within an experimental framework compared to the rigorous challenges of the normal school day curriculum. There are so many resources available that you could easily get information overload as you begin. Thus, I would like to give you a four-step process that may help:

1. Learn the technology – As the saying goes, “when in Rome…” Seriously, take some time to actually learn the technology so that you, as the educator, can guide and participate in the learning offering. I recommend going to some educational technology forums like Classroom 2.0Edutopia, or the big one – International Society for Technology in Education.

2. Use the technology – Leading by example is more than just a buzzword phrase. Start a Facebook page, design an Xtranormal scene, build a WordPress Blog, generate a YouTube channel, learn to Podcast, invent a Second Life avatar…it’s up to you. The point is that if you are going to teach digital natives you need to speak their language. You can only do this if you use the technology.

3. Teach content generation – Digital natives enjoying creating content for others to enjoy. It is the ultimate freedom for them. However, there are copyright laws to be aware of. Challenge your students to learn how to create content while abiding by the laws of society.

4. Have digital natives teach you – It is said that there is no better way to learn than to teach. Allowing your students to teach you what they know is the best way to build engagement in learning. The battle will be won.

Our world is changing at rates that even the most savvy “geek” cannot keep up with. Every day more and more tools are being released. It is an amazing time and we are in a unique position to guide the next generation of youth. Similar to the excitement that I had in 1984, I feel tremendously ecstatic about today and look forward to how technology will change education and the expanded learning field. Thus, I say Vive la Digital Revolution.

This morning I had Cheerios because it is the breakfast of champions, oh and good for my diet!

Author Profile: @shawnpetty

Follow Shawn on Twitter @scpetty.

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